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Boris Johnson apologises for comments over jailed Briton in Iran

14 November 2017, 01:07 | Terri Saunders

The foreign secretary Boris Johnson is under pressure over comments he made


"I apologise to Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family if I have inadvertently caused them any further anguish".

Zaghari-Ratcliffe is now in prison in Iran.

During a House of Commons grilling, Mr Johnson told MPs: "The British Government has no doubt Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was in Iran on holiday and that was the sole objective of her visit".

"Of course I apologise for the distress, for the suffering that has been caused by the impression I gave that I believed she was there in a professional capacity".

Iranian state TV seized on his comments as an "unintended confession", prompting fears that his comments were being used by the Iranian authorities to justify her continued imprisonment.

Speaking to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, he said: "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, nor her family, has been informed about what crime she has actually committed".

"I reject any suggestion that she was there in a professional capacity", he said.

Labour's shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said: "His pride matters not one ounce [compared] to her freedom".

Pushed on whether Mr Johnson had apologised directly for potentially worsening his wife's situation, he said: "He didn't make the connection".

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Ratcliffe told the BBC he hoped he could travel to Iran with Johnson to meet his wife.

"It's important that the Foreign Secretary stays to see it through and brings Nazanin home", he said. "Could he for the sake of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, unequivocally, for the record, 'I got it wrong?'" "But at the same time I'm not trying to push for anyone to lose their job, I'm just trying to bring Nazanin home".

Johnson replied: "I hope that the House will understand that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was there on holiday".

"He's certainly the right person now to go and compensate for the enormous harm he has done".

Iran exploited Johnson's comments in court as offering new evidence against Zaghari-Ratcliffe and why she was in the Islamic Republic at the time of her arrest.

Concern over her physical and mental health is growing, and neither Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe nor her husband has had access to their daughter, who is being looked after by her grandparents in Iran.

In September, the mother-of-one was jailed for five years on allegations of spying and attempting to topple the Iranian regime.

It comes as Downing Street said it was considering offering diplomatic protection to the mother-of-one, which would make the case a legal dispute between Iran and the United Kingdom, rather than a consular issue.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove came under fire after appearing to cast doubt over her actions in the run up to her arrest.

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